Fred strengthens slightly as it heads to US coast
Fort Lauderdale — The National Hurricane Center said Fred regained its tropical storm status in the Gulf of Mexico early Sunday just hours before Grace was demoted to a tropical depression.
Fred was forecast to move across the Gulf and reach the coast as early as Monday afternoon, forecasters said. They said people from Alabama to the central Florida Panhandle should monitor the system's progress.
A tropical storm warning is now in effect for the coast of the Florida Panhandle from Navarre to the Wakulla/Jefferson County line, meaning tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area in the next 24 hours. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the coast of the Florida Panhandle from the Alabama/Florida border to Navarre. A storm surge warning has been issued for part of Florida's Big Bend area. That's the spot on the Gulf Coast where the Florida peninsula turns west into the Panhandle.
Fred's maximum sustained winds stood at 45 mph (75 kph) Sunday evening.
Anticipating Fred, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the state's Panhandle region. And Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement Saturday saying her administration was monitoring the weather and “will be ready to act from the state level if needed.”
Fred was located Sunday evening about 215 miles (345 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida, and moving north-northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
Fred had been downgraded to a tropical wave on Saturday. Tropical waves can contain winds and heavy rain, but do not circulate around a center point or an “eye” like a tropical storm or hurricane.
Meanwhile, Grace was demoted to a depression as its maximum sustained winds fell to 35 mph (55 kph), below the 39 mph (63 kph) threshold for a tropical storm. It was located about 295 miles (475 kilometers) east-southeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday evening.
Tropical storm warnings for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were discontinued. A tropical storm watch was issued for the Haiti.
The storm was moving west at 15 mph (24 kph).
Both Grace and Fred, regardless of their storm status, posed a heavy rain and flood threat, forecasters said.
Rainfall totals around 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 centimeters) were forecast from Grace for the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, through Tuesday.
Fred was forecast to bring 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) to the Big Bend of Florida and the Panhandle from Sunday night into Tuesday.
A tropical storm earlier in the week, Fred had weakened to a depression by its spin over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power to some 400,000 customers and caused flooding that forced officials to shut part of the country’s aqueduct system, interrupting water service for hundreds of thousands of people. Local officials reported hundreds of people were evacuated and some buildings were damaged.